In early summer 2013, I finally felt good enough about my manuscript, Waiting for Ethan, to start querying agents. By that point, I had received feedback from my writing groups and book clubs and rewritten several drafts. When I finished reading my last version, I remember thinking, I really like this. It’s a book I would read. Only then did I begin the querying process.
I had been warned querying was difficult. Indeed writing my query letter was harder than writing my manuscript. For those of you who don’t know what a query letter is, it’s a letter to agents asking them to represent your work. You have only a few paragraphs to present the topic of your manuscript, including genre and word count, describe your plot in an enticing manner, and present a bio of yourself. Some agents ask you to send a one-page synopsis with the query, and sometimes you’re allowed to send a chapter or two. For the most part though, agents decide if they want to see your work based on that query letter. That’s a lot of pressure.
I read a slew of online articles on how to write a query, I reviewed letters that successfully landed an agent and attended several workshops. While doing this, I also researched agents who would be a good fit for my work. My manuscript fits into the category of contemporary women’s fiction, chick lit really, but one agent told me never to call it that. The last thing I wanted to do was send my query to an agent who didn’t represent my genre.
Finally, I developed a letter that I thought was good, came up with a list of agents I thought might be interested, and began sending out my queries. I think the average time for receiving a response from an agent is 6-8 weeks. Sometimes it can be longer and in many cases, if they’re not interested, you never hear back.
I experienced some beginner’s luck. The first agent I heard back from requested to review my entire manuscript and the second requested the first 50 pages. Just when I started to think this finding an agent process might not be so bad after all, the rejections started rolling in. Form letters, all of them, each one whittling away a tiny piece of my confidence.
I thought about self-publishing. In fact, my friend was proofing my manuscript for typos because I was pretty sure I was going to go that way. In the meantime, I decided to send out a few more queries. I sent a query to Liza Fleissig at Liza Royce Agency, whom I read about in a “How I Find My Agent” story, and three other agents. All four requested the full manuscript, but Liza was the only one I sent it to because she asked for it first and asked for an exclusive. About three weeks later, she called to say she loved it. From the first time I spoke with her, I knew I wanted her to represent my work. First off, she’s just nice. Plain and simple. But more important, her enthusiasm is infectious, and she most definitely listens and gives thoughtful responses to my questions. So now I have an agent, a really good one.